Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I want you... to proselytize in Afghanistan (or, how the U.S. military is trying to convert Muslims to Christianity)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Ever wonder why the U.S. lacks credibility in the Muslim world, or why, more generally, the U.S. faces so much opposition around the world? Reasons abound, of course -- and I won't get into them here -- but obviously part of it is that it at least seems to be not so much a political (and cultural) hegemon as a religious one, that is, that the essence of American power is theocratic in nature, that is, that it desires not just to conquer the world one market at a time but to convert it one soul at a time. Officially, of course, the U.S. military denies, as it denies now, that it allows, let alone seeks, religious conversion. Unofficially, which is likely where the truth lies, well, that's a different matter, and you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to figure out what's really going on. And now there's some pretty solid evidence -- or, rather, yet more evidence -- of the unofficial aims of American power. Jeremy Scahill has the story at HuffPo:

New video evidence has surfaced showing that US military forces in Afghanistan have been instructed by the military's top chaplain in the country to "hunt people for Jesus" as they spread Christianity to the overwhelmingly Muslim population. Soldiers also have imported bibles translated into Pashto and Dari, the two dominant languages of Afghanistan. What's more, the center of this evangelical operation is at the huge US base at Bagram, one of the main sites used by the US military to torture and indefinitely detain prisoners.

In a video obtained by Al Jazeera and broadcast Monday, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him."

There's a rule against such proselytizing -- it's called General Order Number 1 -- but apparently these crusaders are trying to get around it by calling the Bibles gifts. But that's nonsense, of course, and Scahill is right about how this will be perceived:

The fact that the video footage is being broadcast on Al Jazeera guarantees that it will be seen throughout the Muslim world. It is likely to add more credence to the perception that the US is engaging in a war on Islam with neo-crusader forces invading Muslim lands.

In other words, yet more self-inflicted damage for the U.S. -- in violation of official policy, perhaps, but does it even matter? The Pentagon can come up with whatever policies it wants. Ultimately, those policies are trumped by what happens on the ground -- and, clearly, some U.S. troops, spurred on by their religious higher-ups, are actively trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. Is it a war against terrorism, against the Taliban and al Qaeda? Is it a war for the security of the Af-Pak region? Is it a war for the Afghan people, for Afghan democracy? Or is it, as these crusaders would have it, a war for the souls of the Afghan people, a war for Christianity against other faiths? Even if it isn't, or isn't entirely, or even isn't mainly, a religious war, how, given the evidence, can doubters be blamed for thinking the worst?

Here's the video:

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  • Harassment, pure and simple.

    -an american christian

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:50 AM  

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